28-May-2024 by Allison McMillan

Read Time: Approx. 4 minutes

Unlocking Advanced Facilitation Skills: Insights from Georgetown University's Transformational Leadership Facilitation Certification

In February, I had the privilege of completing Georgetown University’s Institute for Transformational Leadership’s Facilitation Certification course. It was an amazing experience and one that a lot of folks have asked me to summarize or they asked what I learned as a result.

To start off, a bit about why I chose this program. I’ve been designing and facilitating meetings and gathering for over 20 years. One would think that by this point, I might not have much to learn about styles, techniques, and approaches, but everyone has growth edges and there’s always more to learn! I decided on this course for a few reasons. First, it was recommended by a handful of friends. I was a part of Cohort 13 (Lucky 13 as we called ourselves!) Each cohort has about 20 people in it, so I was able to chat with a handful of individuals who had previously participated and everyone said it was life changing and gave them so many new tools for their toolbox. Second, there’s always more to know! I’ve used a huge variety of approaches, some that I’ve learned about and others that I’ve created, to facilitate meetings in engaging and interactive ways, but there’s there are so many different approaches to learn, people to connect with, and get that hands-on learning around a modality which goes beyond just reading about it. Third, as a newer business owner, having the official certification is sometimes helpful in order to provide that amount of clout and trust in the experience level. And fourth, as you progress in your career, it becomes more and more difficult to find valuable professional development experiences AND these experiences are significantly more expensive than they are earlier in your career. I was craving a professional development experience and also wanted to be sure it would be a good one.

The course consisted of 4 modules. Each one with a different focus, from understanding who you are as a facilitator, to DEIB, to remote/virtual/hybrid facilitation, to understanding how to approach the design for different clients, groups, and meeting types. Throughout each module, we were both directly experiencing the modality (facilitation approach and design) while also learning how to design and facilitate it ourselves. And, an interesting and vital part of the course is how we were connecting with one another, and, learning how as facilitators to create space for that kind of connection to happen. This last part is super important because while the content of any meeting or gathering is important, the more important piece is how to connect with yourself and others around that topic to experience and engage with it more deeply.

Here’s the part that everyone wants, and those are the straight-forward takeaway tips. BUT here’s what I learned… the tips and tricks are less about bullet points that can be easily taken away and mostly about how you can feel and know where a group is going and what they need in the moment to ensure successful outcomes. There aren’t really clear, easy takeaways because… and the engineers reading this will appreciate it… it depends! You can’t design two identical gathering designs and how you facilitate it for two different groups because they are different. This is similar to how I personally approach engineering leadership work as well, while the same or a similar solution might be useful to put in place… the things that I essentially consider my “playbook”, what it looks like and how it’s implemented for different teams is just that, different. My specific takeaways were personally becoming more comfortable with pivoting and adjusting a plan that’s in flight to give groups what they need while still reaching desired outcomes (and achieving them even more fully by often navigating through instead of around blockers). And recognizing the work I can do in advance and in how I design gatherings to get the group discussing and interacting on a different, deeper level that will result in better conversations, interactions, and outcomes.

And, as I’ve stated other times and in other places, it all comes down to your goals. The one takeaway that I can pass along is that for every meeting and every gathering, know what you’re trying to accomplish and what you want people to walk away with. If you continue to tie each session and moment of the experience back to that (including breaks, social experiences, etc.) that you’ll be able to stay focused on creating successful outcomes.

If you're eager to discover what an exceptional offsite, retreat, or gathering facilitation could look like for your group, Book a free consultation call with me today. With a range of pricing options and levels of involvement, I'm here to help you create magical moments and get to GREAT. Whether you're seeking a complete overhaul of a traditional format or looking to infuse your event with fresh, impactful elements, I can help guide you through this journey.

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